Elementary-age children can be prepared to know, understand, and defend their Christian faith. It’s time to go beyond Sunday School. ◊
She’s 8 years old.
She learned this in school. She’s getting a good classical education (grammar, logic, rhetoric) immersed with a Christian worldview.
This got me thinking about Christian education for young children. Most of us leave this for Sunday School classes or youth group activities at our churches. Through our own personal experience I’ve come to realize that this is not enough to equip our young ones to be prepared to know, understand, and defend their Christian faith on the playground or in the classroom as they grow up.
We need to teach our children Christian apologetics. That is, in a secular world that is growing in its anti-Christian stance, parents (and grandparents) would do well to develop our children and grandchildren in the who, what, why, when, where and how of Christianity.
Author and blogger, Natasha Crain highlights four key knowledge areas for young elementary-age kids: 1) What Christianity teaches, 2) Why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true, 3) What others believe, and 4) How others challenge Christianity.1 I like the approach.
I agree that we need to do this in an age-appropriate way that won’t overwhelm or bore the children. Also, we adults need to believe that young children are capable of understanding Biblical realities and are well-served when taught Christian concepts, precepts and comparative truths.
Bible Stories vs. Bible Context
Crain accurately points out that spending hundreds of hours in church often leaves kids with a shallow understanding of what Christianity teaches. At church, as well as in most homes, children do learn major Bible stories and basic Christian doctrine like: Jesus died for our sins, Daniel was in the lion’s den, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and Joseph had a multicolored coat. All good but we can look for ways to enhance the teaching.
How do these stories and facts fit into a logical historical context? It can help to ask children questions like “What happened before this?” “What happens next?” or “Why is this an important part of the Bible?”
She points out that we should be teaching commonly misunderstood words like: miracles, faith, religion, church, sin, salvation, resurrection, love, justice, eternal, science, and supernatural. That’s a good list. Certainly, children cannot defend what they don’t understand.
Christianity Truth Framework
We should approach investigating the truth and evidence of Christianity with our children the same way we would with any adult. Crain highlights 4 key questions:
- What evidence is there for the existence of God?
- Can all religions point to the same truth?
- What evidence is there for the resurrection of Jesus?
- What evidence is there for the reliability of the Bible?
This is a solid framework that can be a lifelong foundation for articulating and presenting the truth of Christianity. For children, one can start with a simple point in response to each question and add points over time.
Christian View vs. Other Views
It’s fair game to help a child understand how their family’s Christian faith stands up in comparison to other faiths, or non-belief. Crain suggests even playing a sorting game with index cards that say, “God doesn’t exist” “God exists” “Right and wrong is a matter of opinion” “Right and wrong is determined by God” and “People determine their own meaning of life.” Have them place the card on one side that is label “Atheistic Worldview” and the other side “Christian Worldview” and ask kids to place the worldview card on the corresponding side.
You can do the same thing with popular ideas in our secular culture like “Do what makes you happy” and “You’re free to decide who you are.” Or other teaching opportunities confront us everyday with movies, music, TV, books, magazine covers, etc. Teaching the distinction between Biblical and non-Biblical thinking is a powerful way to educate and prepare your children for the real world.
Christian Skeptic and The Answer Man
We need not fear that we’re putting doubt into our children’s minds. They may already be hearing skeptical talk on the playground or classroom in elementary school. Better to deal with it safely in the home. Play fun imagination games to test the limits of reality. “How do we know there’s not a Flying Spaghetti Monster?” What evidence do we have that God exists?”
I used to play “Answer Man” at bedtime with my children. I would put on my Answer Man helmet and they could ask me anything they wanted. While I don’t think I ever quite gave a great answer as to why the sky is blue, I do know that the kids could come to me with any question about God, Jesus, or the Bible. If I had to do it over again, I’d seed the Answer Man time with age-appropriate Christian apologetic questions for a better learning experience.
In fact, it’s something I’ll start to incorporate with the grandchildren.
Christian faith matures over a lifetime. Are you helping your children mature at a young age?
“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. – Deuteronomy 4:9-10
1 Natasha Crain, Kindergarteners Need Apologetics, Too – How to Teach Them What They Need to Know, Christian Research Journal, Vol. 41. No.01, 2018, p. 27.</small font>